Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Margot. I’m happy to have just moved to green and rainy Bellingham, Washington. I turned 30 this year, and I’m happily married. I have two younger brothers, a high school teacher for a dad, and a seamstress for a mom. My great grandmother was also a seamstress, and I have a few other relatives who create things with their hands.
I’ve lived in various northwest towns throughout my life. I studied Spanish and Art in college, and went to school in Spain for a year. More recently, I lived in New Mexico to get my MFA in printmaking.
When I was still in school, I began experimenting with batik in my kitchen. I decided to keep making functional work alongside my other studio work once I graduated. I was looking for an online venue so that I could maximize my time and profits, when I found Etsy. It’s been great selling here because the site is easy to navigate, the fees are reasonable and it connects me directly with customers. It’s helped me make an income without sacrificing my studio time.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I spend my summers commercially fishing for salmon. This is something I’ve done my whole life. I also teach art classes for kids and apply for grants, shows and other professional opportunities.
In my free time, I like to grow things in my garden, hang out with my great husband, play with my kitties, ride my bike, collect shells and bones, smoke fish, pick berries, look at clouds and make bread.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I can’t remember not wanting to make things. I’ve always enjoyed trying to sell my work, too. My first customers were my brothers: as children, I convinced them that brightly painted rocks and shells were worthwhile and exciting purchases. One of them is still pretty upset about it.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
When I first started learning about wax, dyes, and fibers, I discovered these antique copper stamps that were made for batik production in Indonesia a century ago. They are very beautiful hand crafted tools, and I wanted a way to give them a new life and voice. As my collection grew, I would look at them together and dream about a ‘batik shop’ that I could create.
I love looking at a 100-year old design and thinking of all the possibilities for it. I thought it would be really great to make a place where customers could help to design custom batiks for linens, accessories, bedding or fabric for their own projects.
I think it is important to create products that I would use myself. I enjoy working in the kitchen, having people over, and eclectic, colorful décor. I enjoy using handcrafted items in my daily life, and I love the irregular beauty of hand dyed items, and cracked wax. For me, tools must be quality items that aren’t fussy to care for, so I really enjoy the sturdiness of batik. The availability of a broad selection of dye colors and their possible interactions with each other was also exciting. So, I decided to make attractive, customizable and useful linens in a rainbow of colors.
Since batik is a bit of a process which involves a lot of waiting, it frees my mind to contemplate future projects and solutions to other creative problems.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a large collection of handmade items from friends and family members. It’s hard for me to choose just one, because whenever I see or use each pot, drawing, print or garment, I’m fondly reminded of the person who made it.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
East of Eden
The River Why
Until I Find You
anything by Hemingway or Sedaris
Dot the I
Little Miss Sunshine
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Flight of the Conchords ( I know, it’s not a movie)
Paul Simon, Dire Straits, Neko Case, Brett Dennen, Travelling Wilburys
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Work as hard as you can.
Make things that you would buy.
Give great customer service to everyone.
Continually self-evaluate your work and your shop: be honest and don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working.
Spend ample time and effort improving your product, your descriptions and your photos.
Distance yourself from people who have negative attitudes about your work, or the ability to make money from what you do.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I was one of those people dyeing to see Alchemy return, and I’m a big fan of that feature. It generates sales for me, and also is a wonderful tool to use when I’m shopping. I love the fact that so many Etsy details that have been improved since I’ve been here: I don’t remember all of them, but know that they’ve become indispensable to me. One example is the vacation mode and the out-of-studio auto-convo: these will really help me since I spend every summer in the wilderness.
As far as features I’d like to see, I would love more tools to organize and maximize my Etsy time as well as to help me offer better service to my customers. Here are some ideas:
A search function for sold items: tags, titles and descriptions, as well as by customer.
Announcements for shop categories.
Convo organization, just like an email inbox.
The ability to upload all 5 listing images at once.
How do you promote your work?
I wear and use my own products. I give them away as gifts. I talk to people about what I do for a living, and I always carry business cards. I try to participate in several giveaways each year, such as the sampler. I post images on Trunkt and Flickr. I think that making a good product and an eye catching shop is a good way to make sure that other people can promote you, as well. I’ve been lucky enough to be written about on blogs like Design*Sponge and Apartment Therapy, which were great promotions for my shop.
In ten years I’d like to be…
making new things
learning new things
established in my community
paying someone else to clean my bathroom